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By Sarah Vine for the Daily Mail
Published: 19:37 EST, 13 October 2015 | Updated: 22:46 EST, 13 October 2015
The other day, my daughter's phone went missing on a crowded bus home from school.
She was convinced it had been stolen from her bag — so I called the local police, filed a report, then rang my insurance to place a claim.
I thought nothing more of it until, just before 10pm the following evening, the landline rang.
It was a woman from the Met: they wanted to interview my 12-year-old about the alleged theft of her mobile phone.
Many of the decisions the police make are based on tick-box protocol rather than common sense (file image)
I was told it was standard policy to interview all victims of mobile phone theft in cases involving minors.
Two days later, a constable turned up to interrogate my daughter. He spent half an hour asking questions and taking notes, before concluding her testimony was not convincing enough to be certain a crime had been committed.
He would amend the report accordingly, and let us have the new paperwork in due course.
Aside from being rather unsettling for a young girl, it struck me as a monumental waste of effort.
Surely that officer's time would have been better spent doing some actual policing rather than on a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise?
I felt this even more strongly when, a few days later, I was woken around 3.30am by the sound of our alarm going off.
The system was recently installed after my husband took on his new role as Justice Secretary.
HUNGER STRIKE: WAY OF LIFE?
Celebrities doing a 24-hour hunger strike for Guantanamo Bay inmate Shaker Aamer isn't much of a hardship. For most of the figure-conscious clothes-horses, skipping meals is a way of life, not a protest.
He was away, and as the children were sleeping with me (as they always do when he's not around), I locked the bedroom door and rang the 101 police helpline (not being a life-or-death emergency I thought better of calling 999).
After listening to a recorded message from Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, I was put through and explained my predicament.
'Is there any sign of a break-in?' asked the female operator. I explained that I couldn't see — because I was locked in my bedroom and didn't fancy going downstairs on my own to find out.
This was a problem. Unless there were signs of a break-in, she said, the police wouldn't come out.
I can't really remember what I said, but I recall expressing surprise that a lone woman with two children reporting a potential break-in would not merit at least a quick drive-by from a local patrol car.
She said she'd put in a call to the Met Police to double check, but came back and confirmed: they would not attend unless there was definite evidence of a break-in.
In a scheme in Leicestershire, police would investigate burglaries only at even-numbered homes (file image)
In fairness to the 101 lady and the constable who came about the phone, they were very nice.
But they seem depressing examples of how so many of the decisions the police make are based on centralised, computer- generated, tick-box protocol rather than common sense.
The most egregious case was the scheme in Leicestershire where they would investigate burglaries only at even-numbered homes.
What on earth is going on? How can it be that the police have the time to make house calls to interview 12-year-olds about something as trivial as a missing mobile phone, but won't attend someone genuinely concerned for her own safety?
Even with the best will in the world, I can't help feeling that instinct and intelligence seem to have deserted the Force in favour of a kind of policing by numbers that leaves people like me — law-abiding citizens who have always had respect for the police — utterly baffled.
As for the alarm, it was all fine on the night — although, in the cold light of day, the garage door looked as though someone had been having a go at it.
One thing's for sure, though: if it happens again, the police will be the last people I call.
Fad that plunges new depths
'Belfie': Clare Nettleton, the GP suspended for having affairs with two of her patients, has taken this photo of herself from above to maximise cleavage
Last week, I attended a plastic surgery convention at London's Olympia. Among the many stalls demonstrating new-fangled gizmos was one promoting breast implants.
These new implants are so strong you can jump up and down on them and they will not break — something I had lots of fun doing. I even took one home, where it now functions as a rather odd executive stress toy.
What was really fascinating, though, was the shape of them. Apparently, the market in breast implants is hugely influenced by selfie culture, and especially the 'brelfie', in other words pictures like this one of Clare Nettleton, the GP suspended for having affairs with not one, but two of her patients.
The 'brelfie' is taken from above to maximise cleavage, so that the viewer is effectively looking directly down the subject's top.
It seems that women are asking for this as an everyday look, leading to a resurgence of larger, rounder breast implants.
The stupidity of the human race never ceases to amaze, does it?
Mick Jagger has many outrageous habits (including his penchant for dad-dancing in Cuban nightclubs at the age of 72). But his request for clear, written instructions on how to use the TV, air conditioning, sound system and wi-fi in hotels while touring seems eminently sensible to me.
I may be young enough to be his daughter, but I, too, find such things utterly mystifying.
I wonder if, while they're at it, the Stones couldn't also get to the bottom of why, despite having enough new technology to get their guests to the Moon and back, most hotels still can't produce a decent slice of toast or poached eggs that don't taste of vinegar at breakfast.
No Botox for Dr Foster
Tonight will be the first Wednesday evening in weeks that hasn't been all about Suranne Jones, whose portrayal of Dr Foster having to cope with an adulterous husband blew an entire nation away.
Not since the fabulous Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction has sexual jealousy been portrayed in such a brilliantly unhinged yet utterly compelling way. It's just so great to see someone on TV who can really act and isn't afraid to do so.
Of course, it helps that Suranne can actually move her face — unlike over-Botoxed stars such as Nicole Kidman, who long ago sacrificed her talent on the altar of vanity.
Botox free: Suranne Jones as Dr Gemma Foster with Bertie Carvel as her adulterous husband, Simon
Why is it that when I go to the High Street chain Scribbler to buy a birthday card I am confronted by a pencil case with 'Let's f**k it up' on it and a fridge magnet that reads 'I love c**k'? Neither clever nor funny — just nasty and vulgar.
Why I'm sweet on wine
Addicts: Many drink wine for the sugar (file image)
I was fascinated to read how alcoholic drinks are becoming sweeter.
Newly formulated beers and mixers often contain more sugar than Coca-Cola.
This confirms something I've long suspected: most so-called moderate drinkers are sugar addicts.
I'm a typical case in point. As one of those classic middle-class, middle-aged drinkers who are always turning up in statistical surveys, I like to have one or two glasses of wine a night. I rarely drink more, since I cannot bear hangovers — which, of course, begs the question: why do I bother?
Simple — I'm a sugar addict. I don't drink wine for the alcohol, it's the sugar I'm after.
So instead of having pudding, I have an extra glass of wine and congratulate myself on being restrained — when, in fact, all I'm doing is ingesting my sugar in fermented grape form instead of a large tub of Ben & Jerry's.
We have a new puppy, an absurdly sweet little Lhassa Apso/sausage dog cross, which the two children have christened Muffin. So I ring Pet Plan to get insurance for her.
'What is the pet's name,' says the nice man in Mumbai. 'Muffin,' say I. Silence. 'And why have you named her Muffin?' 'Er, because she's all soft and squidgy.' This seemed to satisfy. Next question: 'Is Muffin a guard dog?'
Talk about lost in translation!
The Bercows are back together for richer not poorer!
I don't know about you, but reports of the newly reunited John and Sally Bercow 'acting like newlyweds' in the Speaker's residence at the Palace of Westminster left me feeling more than a little queasy.
Mr Speaker must be very special to entice Sally back to a place that she once claimed was hateful.
Either that, or they realised how much their estrangement was costing them: after all, pads in Battersea — where they own a £1.2 million mews house — have a very decent rental value.
Grace-and-favour apartments, by contrast, are heavily subsidised.
Reunited: John and Sally Bercow (pictured) are said to be 'acting like newlyweds' in the Speaker's residence
Don't all scream at once but I'm in the Stay In camp when it comes to the EU referendum — which leads to some lively conversations in my social circle.
But when I saw the line-up for the Britain Stronger In Europe Campaign, I realised it's a lost cause.
First, Peter Mandelson and Richard Branson, not to mention Lord Rose, the former M&S boss who used to sound like a eurosceptic. Second, that acronym, BSE, which also stands for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Mad cow disease!
Didn't anyone think that naming your campaign after a fatal brain disease was not the best idea?